With a bit of refinishing and reupholstery, antiques, vintage furniture and European cast-offs are transformed into beautiful, expensive-looking signature pieces by fashion designer-turned-home décor entrepreneur Karen Santos.
Her 18-year-old brand Kassa, which started out supplying imported stone surfaces to architects and designers and embroidered linens to high-end clientele, has diversified into restoring old pieces.
Santos was working with a designer whose client wanted a European theme for the house. “I thought, why not bring all these things together so that designers and friends can come and buy?” recalls the inveterate traveler.
Last year, Santos began a pop-up collection, which was quickly sold out.
At her current exhibit at Nest furniture store, Santos contrasts old silhouettes with contemporary upholstery and colors. A vintage armchair with spindle legs by British company Howard & Son is perked up with palm prints.
Lowly stools with spindle legs become chic with leopard spots and matte gilt finish.
A nondescript, mid-century Scandinavian armchair becomes eye-catching with optical prints, while another conservative wingchair is revitalized with vibrant tropical leaf pints.
An English mahogany chair is upholstered with teak kettle patterns.
Santos attributes the popularity of restored old furniture to the eclectic décor trend. It’s a look composed of diverse elements—an assortment of textures, styles, trends and time periods pulled together by a theme.
“Sometimes all the furniture are in place, but the space needs a couple of pieces to take it to the next level,” says Santos. Hence, her unique pieces can provide the accent.
Some of Kassa’s pieces on exhibit have been artfully styled by architect Conrad Onglao and interior designer Tania Lichauco.
Onglao anchors his vignette with the vintage black, tufted leather Chesterfield sofa from the Conran store. Its volume contrasts with the lightness of Kassa’s Italian Carrara marble table with a Lucite base.
The neutral backgrounds of the armchairs with palm prints, and wing chairs with woolen twill upholstery, balance the heaviness of the sofa. A zebra skin rug adds a graphic element. In the corner, a 19th-century Chinoiserie lacquered desk is paired with a Napolen III chair. The contrast emphasizes the individual allure of each piece.
In Lichauco’s vignette, an étagère is flanked by Art Deco armchairs with corresponding brass tables topped with black lacquer.
A Chinese garden stool and a two-tier Napoleon side table with brass works and floral appliqués lend antiquity. An animal-printed stool and a shagpile carpet add a layer of fun and texture.
Santos is attracted to period pieces for their timeless appeal, high-quality material and craftsmanship.
In a world of mass production, vintage and antique pieces are unique and valuable because of the history linked to them. The royal feel of the furniture is a refreshing change from commonplace styles. –CONTRIBUTED
Karen Santos’ Kassa exhibit is on view until June 15 at Nest, 40 Jupiter St. Bel-Air, Makati.